The aircraft shown are all flying at the same speed and height.

The directions they are flying are shown as three figure bearings.

Is the situation safe or are any aircraft likely to collide?

Air Traffic Control

A Mathematics Lesson Starter Of The Day


Topics: Starter | Angles | Bearings | Estimating

  • Transum,
  • This is an exercise in estimation assuming that the pupils understand three figure bearings. They need to decide, given the direction of travel, whether any of the aircraft will collide or whether they will safely fly out of the airspace covered by this radar screen. You can see the answer by running the simulation which shows how the situation unfolds. As an alternative way of using this resource you could print out this page and ask the pupils to accurately draw on the flights paths using ruler and protractor. Each time you refresh the page you get a new situation so all of the pupils could be working on a different problem. Remember it is not enough to say two flight paths intersect, the planes need to be at the same place at the same time before a collision takes place. Also when two planes have collided a third plane is safe to enter that position as presumably the collided planes have fallen to the ground.
  • Susan Cole, Cornwall
  • I think this is great. I copied an image before the simulation and after. Students will draw in bearings on a paper based copy and see for themselves whether there is a crash or not.
  • Mr H, Devon
  • This is such a great starter, thank you! My only request would be to be able to have a few fixed versions, so not all randomly generated - I'd like to print it out and give copies to students, but I can't as they're random!

How did you use this starter? Can you suggest how teachers could present or develop this resource? Do you have any comments? It is always useful to receive feedback and helps make this free resource even more useful for Maths teachers anywhere in the world.
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This starter has scored a mean of 2.9 out of 5 based on 283 votes.

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Note to teacher: Doing this activity once with a class helps students develop strategies. It is only when they do this activity a second time that they will have the opportunity to practise those strategies. That is when the learning is consolidated. Click the button above to regenerate another version of this starter from random numbers.

Online Maths Shop

Laptops In Lessons

Teacher, do your students have access to computers?
Do they have iPads or Laptops in Lessons?

Whether your students each have a TabletPC, a Surface or a Mac, this activity lends itself to eLearning (Engaged Learning).

Laptops In Lessons

Here a concise URL for a version of this page without the comments.


Here is the URL which will take them to an exercise involving bearings.


Student Activity

Here is the URL which will take them to a game involving bearings.


Student Activity

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If your pupils' ability to estimate compass bearings is not good enough for this Starter you may want to instead begin with this. It's a whole class practice/learning activity that could be played as a game.

Plane Bearings

Student Activity


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